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whatever the weather, we gon' be better together

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The first graduation they attend together is Fitzsimmons’, because Phil already knows he’s snatching them practically out of the Academy cradle. He’s better at small talk than she is, and higher up, so she distracts herself from her painful heels by sighing herself into the corner of a couch and drinking far too much wine - people are intimidated enough of her that most of them know to stay at least at arm’s length.

She wakes up alone in his bed in the morning, and wonders just how drunk she’d gotten. She laughs at the Captain America sheets - he was a grown man with license to kill, for fuck’s sake - and makes her way downstairs to find that he’s making…pancakes.

He doesn’t see her coming, and she doesn’t mean to laugh when he startles at her entering his kitchen and burns his fingers, but she does. He tries and fails to glare at her, and she reaches out for his hand and gingerly holds it under the faucet as she turns the cold water on.

+

The second graduation they attend together, she doesn’t remember clearly afterwards. They’ve only just made it back from a mission only to be told they were required to go as part of executive duties; she needs to find an excuse for wearing a cardigan in May because she was still visibly wounded, and she spends much of it annoyed at him as Phil keeps trying to make sure she was okay.

“Like an excessively doting boyfriend,” she says accidentally when she’s joking about it with Morse and Hunter and Fitzsimmons, and feels the slightest shift in attitude between their whole team.

+

The third graduation they attend together is when Skye’s dog - and Ward with her - graduates from obedience school. Ward pulls Phil aside afterwards to solicit advice about proposing to Skye; even though Phil promises to keep it a secret, he tells Melinda about it when she’s driving Lola back to base, and Melinda prays that Ward’s actually learned a thing or two in the class.

“And what if he hasn’t? You kill ‘im?” Phil says teasingly, and with an entirely straight face but not a single glance at the passenger seat, she replies, “this is Skye we’re talking about, remember? He hurts her again, of course I will.”

Phil chuckles as though he’d expected something like that, which she knows he did.

+

The fourth graduation they attend together is for someone they don’t even know, some kid that Tony Stark puts through MIT without explanation. Phil can’t help but feel a bit sorry for all the other graduates, because it seems that roughly half the crowd have something or other to do with SHIELD, and Melinda keeps her gun on at all times, just in case, since they are at an event that’s turned into a gathering of superheroes, and wherever there are superheroes, there tends to be trouble.

The event stays surprisingly tame, however, despite the sheer volume of people and excitement, and the only time Melinda draws her gun it turns out to be Phil, sneaking up behind her. She settles in the moment for a light smack and a glare, but later that evening they’re on the way out of the bar they and the team had gone to after the whole MIT affair, and something snaps, taking decades of tension with it, and they don’t make it any farther than the alley immediately next to the building before everything they’ve ever been is left to being tongue and teeth and the chilly brick walls they push up against and the arousal strumming through them, thick as molasses.

+

A couple more graduations come and go, but they’re sharing everything except their toothbrushes and that does include executive responsibilities, so they’re not always in the same place at the same time anymore, not until Phil decides to abdicate his directorial position. He gets plane tickets for a long trip, starting over a month after he leaves SHIELD, and Melinda’s confused about it even after he asks her to take that time off; but the day after her vacation time is confirmed, Fitzsimmons’ little girl Lena - who’s already thirteen, because time never fucking slows down - comes round asking for something to wear in her school play, and Melinda stumbles upon an engagement ring she knows she wasn’t supposed to find, and everything feels like it makes sense.

Quite a few years come and go before they attend another graduation together, when Skye and Ward’s first daughter, April, a precious bundle of kinetic energy and questions, is ‘graduating’ from elementary school. At the reception, while they’re pretending to get full on animal crackers, one of her teachers comes over and recognizes them as her grandparents, about whom she talks very much, and they don’t waste a second before nodding their accord and introducing themselves.